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Great books about medical research

In this post one of the educators from Improving Healthcare through Clinical Research shares some of the best books about the world of medical and clinical research.

If there is one thing that binds all people together it is a concern for our health.  We rely on modern healthcare to ensure that we remain well and make the best use of the opportunities that life affords us.  But, most of us don’t realise that modern healthcare is built upon many years of careful, painstaking research.  This research is designed and carried out to make new discoveries, and it is this process of discovery that excites many who work in the field.  If you want to experience some of that excitement you could do no better than to read the accounts of some of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last centuries.  These are thrilling tales, but they also reveal the effort and perseverance needed to make a discovery.  There is rarely a Eureka moment; instead we are often dealing with years of meticulous work that ultimately bear fruit.  We are all the beneficiaries of these discoveries for without them 21st century healthcare would be very different.

 Here are five suggestions to help you discover more about medical research:

great books medical research FutureLearn

The Double Helix by James D. Watson

 This is James Watson’s autobiographical account of the discovery of the structure of DNA.  It is the kind of scientific detective story that would make anyone want to join up.  The fact that the reality of science is not quite like Watson’s account is almost unimportant.  His shabby treatment of Rosalind Franklin in the book and his casual approach to the intellectual property of others all add to the mystique of this early 1950s story of the goings on in Cambridge and London.

The Discovery of Insulin by Michael Bliss

The story of the discovery and first clinical use of insulin is one of intrigue and excitement every bit as great as the discovery of the structure of DNA, but is one much less well known.  The author is a distinguished medical historian working in Toronto where much of this story of discovery takes place. 

Yellow Jack by John R. Pierce & Jim Writer

This book is subtitled: “How yellow fever ravaged America and Walter Reed discovered its deadly secrets.”  Like the first two books this is another unraveling of a medical mystery.  It is also a tale of clinical research in action and an important milestone in the development of clinical research ethics. 

Angel of Death by Gareth Williams

Smallpox was once the greatest killer of mankind. This book tells the story of our battle with this disease — a battle that we have won for smallpox is the only disease ever to have been successfully eradicated across the globe.

Trial by Fire by Allan Gaw

This short book describes the development of medical research through a series of intriguing stories that take us from Babylon and Ancient Egypt, to Europe in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and on to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, and the US in the 1960s and 70s.  The author demonstrates the origins of randomisation and blinding in clinical trials; the importance of consent, trust and codes of ethical practice; and the crucial importance of publication.  And he shows us where it may have all begun.

 Discover more about clinical and medical research with Improving Healthcare through Clinical Research.

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